Breaking the chains

CONFESSIONOn a rather regular basis, I am asked via email about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and forgiveness of sins. The questions that I am thinking of are mostly from folks who are firmly entrenched in their Christian faith in the Protestant or Reformed tradition. But increasingly these days, inquiries also come from Catholics. Sometimes they are not really questions at all. They are invitations for me to debate them as they wish to free me from the errors of my Catholic beliefs or free the Catholic from the need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The question is always some variation of “how can priests forgive sins” when – and here are the variations in their logic – (a) there is no such thing as priest, there is only Jesus as High Priest, (b) only God can forgive sins, (c) people only have one mediator, jesus Christ, and therefore one need only ask Jesus for forgiveness, (d) Scripture never talks about confessing sins to a priest, ….and I think that covers the common debate topics. Continue reading

Cast Away

The prophet Micah preached to Jerusalem, but he was not from the city. He was an outsider from the farming village of Moresheth in the Judean foothills. You can imagine how the people, priests, and temple prophets received his prophecies of death, doom, pestilence and punishment. I am sure they would have liked to cast him away, tossed outside the city walls.

Where some prophets are rejected because the town knows them too well, e.g., Jeremiah and Jesus, other are rejected because the listeners assume their town of origin automatically dismisses them. In our own day, we too have trouble recognizing and accepting the prophets. They tend to chip away at the edges of our consciences and memory where lies guilt, remorse and regret; and too often, hesitancy to acknowledge our fault and seek reconciliation. They are the things we too should cast away outside the walls of our lives.

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Repent and Repeat

One of the most common things one hears in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sin of gossip. It has been said that the act of gossip is like buying a chicken in the marketplace, feathers and all, and then walking through town, plucking the feathers one by one. As a priest, how do I direct a person to undo all the damage caused by gossip. It is akin to asking the person to return and pick up all the feathers. Such is the nature of gossip and its redress.

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The Gift of Forgiveness

Sometimes our Advent readings don’t seem very…well, in the Christmas spirit. But simply put, Advent is not Christmas. It is time of preparation. Advent lies between the celebration of the Seconding Coming of Christ at the end of time and the commemoration of the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. Think about that for a moment! It is a “path” that will lead one to think about sin, confession, penance, and preparation for Jesus, the great King’s coming. Get ready! But that preparation, especially, the gift of forgiveness, is a great joy and is bundled up in the Christ child at Christmas. Continue reading

The Gift of Forgiveness

The First Sunday of Advent readings might strike you as somewhat odd. The don’t seem very…well, in the Christmas spirit. Perhaps it helps to consider where Advent falls on the liturgical calendar for the Church. It is immediately preceded by the Solemnity of Christ the King and followed by the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas). Advent lies between the celebration of the Seconding Coming of Christ at the end of time and the commemoration of the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. The theme of readings and teachings during Advent is often to prepare for the Second Coming at the end of time, while also commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas. With the view of directing the thoughts of Christians to the first coming of Jesus Christ as Savior, and to his second coming as Judge, special readings are prescribed for each of the four Sundays in Advent. Continue reading

Asking Forgiveness

forgivenessThe Family Leadership Summit is an annual affair that promotes its conservative Evangelical Christian identity and values around the family. Given that it is Iowa based, it is no surprise that in 2015 the Republican-Party hopefuls were on the podium and present at “town hall” meetings. Given the audience and agenda, it should come as no surprise what kind of questions you are going to face – and, as any good speaker would pay attention to, what kind of language the audience is waiting to hear in any response. The questions came as no surprise: “What is your relationship to Jesus Christ? Are you saved? How does your faith form your political world view?” Continue reading

Chaos and Spring Cleaning

ChaosRecently I was given to a fit of spring cleaning in my office. As with most spring cleanings, the day was marked by occasions of, “Oh my gosh, I wondered where that was,” “Where did I get that?”,  “Why in the world did I keep that?” and a host of other on going revelations. Seven large garbage bags of …of…. stuff were collected and sent off for recycling or disposal. There was a point in which my office had the appearance of the primordial swirl of chaos – papers, books, boxes, bags, and all manner of things lay strewn around the floor, on the desk, and parked on and under chairs. All of it waiting for the imposition of order, the creative hand of the Spirit bringing beauty and symmetry, or the simple assignment to its place. Continue reading